NYPL Unveils Mecanoo Master Plan

John Hill
22. November 2017
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building new entrance on 40th Street, near Fifth Avenue (All images courtesy of Mecanoo)

Three and a half years after the New York Public Library shelved Norman Foster's plan to dramatically transform the library's 1911 home in Midtown Manhattan, Mecanoo's pared-down master plan for the building has been unveiled.

If Foster's plans for the NYPL had moved forward, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building – the official name of the library's main building – would have evolved from a research institution into a lending library, enabled by the sale of the Mid-Manhattan branch across the street. But controversy followed immediately when Foster's plans were released to the public in early 2013, with the largest outcry leveled at the destruction of the stacks holding up the Rose Reading Room, where an atrium would have taken their place.

The Foster scheme was abandoned in May 2014, and one year later Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle were selected to renovate both the Schwarzman Building and Mid-Manhattan branch. Their scheme for the latter was unveiled in November 2016, with construction currently underway on the $200 million renovation. Once complete in early 2020, the branch will be renamed the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library following a $55 million gift from the foundation.

Image for the Schwarzman building's $317 million plan (compared to $1 billion for Foster's) were unveiled last week, and they reveal how rooms designed as public areas – long used for staff or storage – will be reopened to the public for exhibition and public programs.

New exhibition spaces

Specific elements of the master plan include:

  • The transformation of former staff or storage spaces into public spaces for research, exhibitions, and educational programs
  • The transformation of long-underutilized, historic spaces for research and programs, including the new Lenox and Astor Room
  • A much-needed entrance on 40th Street with a plaza and new elevator bank to ease congestion throughout the building
  • An improved patron experience with new bathrooms and improved and modernized infrastructure, including a café and expanded shop
  • A new Center for Research and Learning that will introduce high school and university students to the array of collections and uses of the research library
  • A new permanent but rotating exhibition of NYPL treasures in the library’s Gottesman Hall

New Lenox and Astor Room will house books and artwork by Brooke Astor

Visit Mecanoo's profile to see more images of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building renovation, which will be carried out in two phases between 2018 and 2021.

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